snowflakes in THE desert / THE FUTURE OF MANUFACTURING

EXPO DUBAI / 2020 (2021)
snowflakes in desert

SNOWFLAKES IN THE DESERT is a dynamically growing collective sculpture at Expo 2020 Dubai. It is a result of a popular interactive exposition. Each visitor can design their unique 3D snowflake, which is then automatically 3D printed.  Visitors can také the snowflake home or engage in the collective sculpture. The artwork is showcasing the new Automated 3D Printing Farm by Prusa Research in the pavilion of the Czech republic.

Over one septillion snowflakes drop from the sky each year worldwide. No two snowflakes are the same! That’s why Dominik Císař (Prusa’s in-house Architect & Designer) had chosen the motive of snowflakes to demonstrate the abilities of the automated printing farm. 3D printing is the most powerful form of manufacturing when comes to customized single-unit production. The parametric geometry of the SNOWFLAKES is controlled by a script that he developed in Rhinoceros/Grasshopper software. The snowflakes generator is set to produce 3D printing friendly geometry. The risk of failure 3D printing process had to be minimized. Snowflakes are designed to have no overhangs. They are printable without using extra supports, which would make them difficult to collect by the automatic harvester.

The EXPO visitors can create unique designs in the app using touchscreen tablets. Sliders adjust the variables for the script and thus modify the design. The singular 3D snowflakes are later 3D printed on the automated print farm. Truly personalized manufacturing on demand.

Thanks to 34 Prusa farm printers, every 5-10 minutes a new snowflake is finished. However, it takes roughly 5 hours to print one snowflake. Usually, the snowflakes, which you can pick up from the collecting area, were created by someone else who came there before you. And in the same manner, the snowflake you design will be picked up by those that will follow. You are inheriting the result of someone’s activity in the past and what you do now, will affect someone in the future. The same is valid for the natural environment, which is one of the EXPO themes.

The main theme of the Czech Pavilion is WATER, and its harvesting from the AIR by condensation. The water and its phase of matter is another underlay for Dominik’s idea of snowflakes. He is just bringing it to the next level – from “liquid” to the “solid-state.” The collective statue is growing as a GLAZED FROST around pavillions stainless-steel rods. The icy look of the snowflakes also works great as a contrast to UAE warm climate. Snowflakes are printed from UV reactive filament, custom made edition of Prusament. Thanks to hidden UV-strip lights the snowflakes appear to be glowing.

In the beginning, it was not clear how many visitors will actually prefer contributing to the sculpture rather than taking their snowflakes home. The statue threatened to remain sparse, made up of only a few snowflakes. But it turns out that people mostly want to join the collective effort. They even started to sign their snowflakes with a marker to make their own frosted trace.

Snowflakes work as modular building units and can be used to create various designs (a table, a chandelier, a space divider). Each flake has 4 vertexes. There is one TOP PIN and three BOTTOM PINS. There are designed two types of special connection pieces for these pins. When assembled those push&click pins holds the flakes in their exact position to unite the structure grid. The online version of the Snowflake generator is free. Everyone can download and 3D print their piece at home.

Prusa 3D printers use polylactic acid (PLA) filaments to print snowflakes. The material is UV reactive and it makes the snowflakes shine.

photos by Jakub Kmošek

more info at Prusa3D


© Dominik Cisar